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Parenting in the Pandemic

By: Alessia Cecatini

During these unprecedented times, many of us have made modifications to our everyday lifestyles. As parents, it is important to protect your children and be there to support them. However, it doesn’t diminish your own personal struggles stemming from work and everyday life circumstances. When most of us wake up in the morning to head to work, it's no longer a “grab the keys and go” type situation. Now, we have to follow the COVID-19 protocol, make sure that a mask and sanitizer are on our person, and take precautions over the course of the day. Although appreciated, sometimes these everyday tasks can become stressful and anxiety-inducing. No matter where we go as adults when placed in public settings, some of the first things that come to mind are, “Am I safe? Did I maintain social distance? Did I sanitize my hands? Are the objects I touched sanitized? What if someone in my surroundings is carrying the virus? Am I carrying it home to my family?”. Even within our homes, one can question, “Why doesn’t anyone understand me? Am I the only one taking this seriously? I’m not sure how to feel about this vaccine? Am I a bad parent for keeping my children home? Will things ever go back to normal?”. All of these daunting thoughts centered around the theme of uncertainty circling in our minds contribute to the stress and anxiety of living in the pandemic.


As adults and parents, we feel we are responsible for taking everything on- striving to prevent unwanted situations from transpiring. Considering the pandemic- rates of anxiety, sleeping disorders, and depression have heightened from 18 to 35 percent (Brown et al., 2020). Taking care of ourselves can be a struggle. With maintaining the demands of jobs, homes, assisting with school work, checking in on elderly loved ones- where’s the time for self care? Aside from this, some have been out of work. Through these times of sorrow- it’s also a mission of survival. Of course there’s going to be an increase in anxiety when you’re wondering how to sustain yourself and your family.


Living in these times of uncertainty and discomfort is challenging for those who suffer from anxiety. Many people describe the feeling as an added weight to their chest. When strategizing the safest living situation, one may design their lifestyle so they do not need to leave their home. The children participate in virtual schooling, adults can work from home, groceries and other products can be delivered, and no gatherings will take place- seems great right? The problem is that we need people. Being consumed in our anxious, negative thoughts harms us more than we think; We can begin to second guess every action we take. This kind of self talk contributes to self doubt and increased feelings of anxiety. Social support and exercise are said to be a couple of the greatest caveats.


Benefits of social support include improved physical health, greater resilience to stress, feelings of security, improved mental well-being, improved self-esteem, and greater life satisfaction (Therapist Aid, 2018). Despite the challenging times and feeling like there's nothing significant to discuss, it's important to make efforts to interact with loved ones in any way we can.


While gyms have been closed, exercise and overall health are still on the minds of many. When executed safely, exercise has lots of benefits for both mental and physical health. However, in this world of uncertainty- it can be tempting to over rely on exercise and dieting for coping and a sense of health safety. In making more significant shifts to control “health”- anxiety around the pandemic has been exacerbated (Scharmer et al., 2020). It’s important to remember that to be healthy means to be in balance. Being in balance means taking care of your physical and mental health but not to a degree to which the control around it becomes an additional problem.


It's no secret that stress has increased due to all of the above. A recent study notes that COVID's effects have a direct link with stress, contributing to struggles within parenting. Due to the struggles parents face, they are less responsive to their children, straining their relationship. These actions are unintentional but arise beyond one’s awareness (Brown et al., 2020). It is important to take a step back and give yourself some time to re-group.


Here are some tips to improve your home life:


1. Be honest- answer your children when they question what is happening in the world, in a way that is suitable for their age. Acknowledge, validate, empathize- repeat. Tell your partner and children when you are battling emotions so they are aware of the reason for your behaviours.


2. Reach out to friends and family- check in on them, let them check in on you. See how they are doing and share how you are feeling. Remind each other that you are not alone.


3. Commend yourself for your efforts- you’re doing the best you can with the resources you have.


4. Create a routine- implementing a routine and schedule tasks to complete during the day provides individuals with an extra sense of purpose. Taking note of accomplishments can contribute to a sense of well-being and satisfaction.


5. Take care of yourself- although it may seem like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, take some time for yourself. With efforts to complete each day with your full potential, a rested mindset is crucial. Give back to yourself as you do to others and commend yourself for what you do and continue to do. Take that bath, go for a walk, breathe, journal- you deserve it.


6. Stay positive- even when it’s hard. Flipping the script and challenging anxious and negative thoughts with an alternative perspective can help remind you that it’s not necessarily going to be the worst case scenario. There’s also a best case and a most likely case. You can also use this time to participate in self growth activities.


Additional parent resources, provided by the government are available for parents at:


https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/resources-parents-children.html


Wishing you all the best during this uncertain time- know that we’re here to support you if needed.


References


Brown, S. M., Doom, J. R., Lechuga-Peña, S., Watamura, S. E., & Koppels, T. (2020). Stress and parenting during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Child Abuse & Neglect, 110, 104699. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2020.104699


Scharmer, C., Martinez, K., Gorrell, S., Reilly, E. E., Donahue, J. M., & Anderson, D. A. (2020). Eating disorder pathology and compulsive exercise during the covid ‐19 public health emergency: Examining risk associated with covid ‐19 anxiety and intolerance of uncertainty. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 53(12), 2049–2054. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.23395


Canada, P. H. A. of. (2020, October 30). Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/resources-parents-children.html.


Therapist Aid. (2018). Social Support. Retrieved from: https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheet/social-support


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